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Hacking "Linked-In": Working around the social part of social networking

Original Post on 14-Jun-06 4:50pm
I use “Linked-In” for a social networking, and online contact management tool. It’s quite convenient, nearly a true peer-to-peer instantiation of a friend of a friend tool (at least in the free version) and pretty indicative of most of these sites. In order to connect with someone, you either must have their email address and send them an invitation, or ask someone you’re already connected with for an introduction, all brokered by Linked-In. I say nearly a true peer-to-peer social networking tool, as there are a couple of ways to bypass their system. Take a look at the following “Linked-In” profile:

Computer & Network Security Professional
Greater Los Angeles Area | Computer & Network Security
Experience:
Sales
Northrop Grumman
Computer & Network Security Industry
1985 – Present (21 years)
Business Development Manager
Lockheed
Computer & Network Security Industry
1995 – 2006 (11 years)
Business Development Manager
Boeing
Computer & Network Security Industry
1995 – 2006 (11 years)
Business Development Manager
Northrop
Computer & Network Security Industry
1985 – 2006 (21 years)
Business Development Manager
Blue Lance
Computer & Network Security Industry
1995 – 2006 (11 years)
Sales
Decision One
Computer & Network Security Industry
1995 – 2005 (10 years)
Business Development Manager
Pacific Bell
Computer & Network Security Industry
1995 – 2005 (10 years)
Business Development Manager
DecisionOne
Computer & Network Security Industry
1995 – 2005 (10 years)
Business Development Manager
SBC
Computer & Network Security Industry
1995 – 2005 (10 years)

I received this yesterday as a “Colleague” connect request. If your years at a specific company or school overlap with someone else, a feature within the site allows a bypass mechanism. Your message is automatically sent without any outside broker (introducer/friend) or previous knowledge (an email address). It appears that this gentleman was a very rich, and very busy boy. In fact, since 1985, he “worked” at 7 major companies simultaneously. The only people I know afforded that sort of leeway are consultants, and they aren’t business development managers (the SEC frowns on this, something about overlapping strategies and oligopolies). All of his employers are in the Computer & Network Security Industry, and security’s a hot market, so my guess is, he’s a head hunter, or maybe a mass marketer selling niche email lists. Or maybe, he’s a corporate spy. Probably not, but that’s the security guy in me.

I bring this up for user education. I personally found several University classmates I hadn’t talked to in over 10 years through this same feature. And there is a temptation for networking with this guy; it appears over 177 people accepted his invitation. The only question really is how many of them he actually knows. Thankfully, you still have to choose to link with your contacts. Linked-In gives you the option of reporting the user for agreement violation. Just think before you click. If it doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t. What’s a social network if there’s no value in who you’re connected with?

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